Check out our NEW Pearl Lab pieces. Free International Shipping.

Search Login

Wo/Men of Pearls: Yifawn Lee, Founder of Asian Art Hong Kong and Publisher of Orientations Magazine

Asian Art Hong Kong Founder and Orientations Magazine publisher, Yifawn Lee, has been traveling a lot lately–but only through a stack of art exhibition catalogues. She shares, “It is a great way to take your mind to different places. I have ‘traveled’ from Mesopotamia to the Sahel and the ancient kingdoms of West Africa.” As someone who chronicles various Asian art movements around Hong Kong and the rest of the world, Yifawn has had the opportunity to visit remarkable destinations. She’s also made acquaintances with some of the most inspiring women today, including Bhutan’s Princess Ashi Kesang Choden T. Wangchuk. 


Herself an inspiration to many women in Hong Kong, Yifawn offers sound advice to anyone looking to pursue a career in the creative field. “I fell into this job unconventionally; it was not a direct path. I would suggest to keep your mind and eyes open to opportunities and to be able to evolve.” As she continues to mark new milestones in art publishing, Yifawn has only one go-to where matters of  style are concerned. She ends, “I have a pair of vintage natural black pearl drop earrings that I wear all the time. I also love Baroque pearls for their boldness and spontaneity, the bigger the better!”



 

 

1. What keeps you busy these days?

 

Reading! I have a stack of art exhibition catalogues and books piled up that I have only had a chance to flip through before. With more time on my hands, I have decided to actually read them. It is a great way to take your mind to different places. I have ‘traveled’ from Mesopotamia to the Sahel to ancient kingdoms of West Africa.

 

 

2. How did you come to find your current career or life’s work?

 

I studied economics for my undergraduate and graduate degrees and my first job was in finance. However, I have always been interested in art and history and so when the opportunity came along to start at Orientations as the associate publisher, it seemed the perfect role to combine both my business experience with my interests.

 

 

 

3. What is it about your work or career that you enjoy most?

 

 

I enjoy the most putting together the contents for each issue, meeting people, from collectors to dealers to scholars, and visiting museums and collections. I had decided to devote one of the six issues per year to a region of the world that Orientations has not covered as much in the past 53 years. 


We featured Asian art collections and institutions in Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Poland in the July/August 2021 issue; the July/August 2022 issue will be devoted to Spain and Portugal and May/June 2023 will be on the Gulf region and Eastern Africa.


One of the most memorable people I have met in the past was Princess Ashi Kesang Choden T. Wangchuk, who is the Executive Director of the Buddhist Art & Cultural Conservation Centre in Bhutan. She was down-to-earth and very passionate about cultivating Buddhist values through conservation.


I first visited Doris Duke’s Shangri-La in Honolulu in 2015. I did not know this place existed even though I grew up in Hawaii because it was not open until 2002, after I had left for university. My jaws dropped when I entered this stunning house overlooking Diamond Head and the Pacific Ocean full of Indian and Islamic art, including a Mughal-inspired white marble dressing and bathroom suite and period room of Syrian interiors. After getting back to Hong Kong, I contacted the director of the museum and was able to feature Shangri-la in our Nov/Dec 2016 issue.

 

 

 

4. For people who aspire for similar careers, what would be your advice?

 

I fell into this job unconventionally; it was not a direct path. I would suggest to keep your mind and eyes open to opportunities and to be able to evolve.


 

5. What are the career milestones that inspire you to break the glass or mold?

 

I had planned to offer digital editions for some time, but the stop of airmail services to many countries at the start of the covid pandemic in 2020 quickened the timeframe. We produced digital version of all 2020 issues and made them available for everyone including subscribers and non-subscribers. It gave us a chance to gather valuable feedback. We officially launched digital subscriptions in addition to print in 2021 on our partner platform, Exact Editions. 


Together with institutional subscriptions, we are now able to reach over 250,000 readers. This is a milestone for a niche art publication like ours.

 

 

 

6. How do you balance work and family life? What are activities that enable you to bond with family?

 

My husband is an art dealer so one of the games we like to play when visiting museums is to pick one piece that we would each like as a ‘souvenir’! I am glad we are in related fields but not in the same industry so we always have a lot to  talk about. I also travel frequently with my family when circumstances permit. I enjoy dragging my parents out of their comfort zones and going to places like Uzbekistan.

 

 

7. What is your self care indulgence? How do you treat yourself or reward yourself at the end of each day or long work week?

 

With a drink! Preferably a glass of cold Palo Cortado sherry.

 

 

8. What is everyday luxury for you?

 

Alone time without any disturbances.

 

9. How would you describe your personal style? What are three your wardrobe essentials?

 

I love wearing loose, flowy garments like gallabiyahs and caftans or what my husband likes to call ‘tents’ and ‘curtains’. This, however, is impractical in cities. My essentials are a Panama hat when under the sun, white canvas sneakers, and pieces from Pleats Please Issey Mikaye.

 

 


10. What comprises a good investment piece? Kindly cite examples of pieces in your current wardrobe.

 

A good investment would be a winter jacket; Max Mara’s double-faced cashmere coats are timeless. Also, vintage signed jewellery, like Bulgari, Cartier or Van Cleef & Arpels.

 

 

11. Why are pearls special to you?

 

Pearls remind me of the sea of Taiwan where I am from. They also remind me of  Hawaii. I have a pair of vintage natural black pearl drop earrings that I wear all the time. I also love Baroque pearls for their boldness and spontaneity, the bigger the better!

Search